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Tips for Online Protection

By , Monday 20th April 2009 in Security & Privacy

Ten top tips for protecting yourself whilst online, browsing safer and avoiding viruses and spyware.

1. Use Firefox

Firefox is much more secure than Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it also has the ability to use plugins, which are covered later. Firefox handles JavaScript in a different manner, which means that some malicious scripts are detected and blocked, whereas Internet Explorer will execute them and compromise your security.

Firefox has a nice feature that will delete your browsing history, cache, Google searches etc... when you close it down, so when somebody else uses it, they can't tell what you've been up to. Any documents or images you have downloaded or saved as will not get deleted.

Firefox also has extensions that allow bulk downloading; one nice tool will download all images on a page and save to a folder you specify. Much easier than opening each individual image and doing the 'right click save as' routine for each window or tab.

2. Get anti-virus software

Anti-Virus software is vital for any computer connected to the Internet. Viruses are rife on the Internet, spreading like a plague. In the past, a virus could only infect your computer if you run an infected program, but in today's hi-tech web your computer can be infected simply by visiting a website. I have never experienced this form of infection myself, but it can be avoided by using up-to-date anti-virus software.

3. Use a firewall

If you have a broadband ADSL or cable connection, chances are that you may already have a simple hardware firewall built into your router. While this is better than nothing, ideally you want a software firewall as well, one that allows you to block on an application level. You should also be able to close ports and block URLS.

Agnitum Outpost Firewall allows you to control every aspect of online activity, including ad blocking, tracker and cookie blocking, URLS control (it can block any internet address from showing), it protects your personal data by blocking its transmission should spyware attempt to contact home. It is very easy to use and configured out the box, just download and install.

4. Block Spyware

Spyware programs monitor your Internet usage or copy your private data and passwords. Spyware is also notorious for slowing down computers. Anti-spyware software will remove these programs, and in some cases stop it from being installed. Most commonly this happens when you install software downloaded from the 'net, some untrustworthy programs will install spyware as well as the program you want, without your knowledge.

5. Back up your data

Always keep backups of all your data on CD-Rom (or other backup device). This isn't just for protection against virus threats, but also hardware failure and theft. Imagine losing all your emails, documents, pictures etc… I'd be lost without mine, so I back them up regularly and store them away from the computer.

6. Keep Windows Updates up-to-date.

Always install the latest security updates from Microsoft, they usually find security vulnerabilities before hackers, release an update and announce the problem to the world. Hackers are then quick to infect those who are lax in applying updates.

7. Firefox Plugins

If you are using Firefox, you may already have used plugins, but for those who haven't, a plugin is an add-on module, which extends the functionality of the Internet Brower. You can add anonymous browsing by using proxy servers, block adverts and popups, control cookies and cache control.

8. Use good common sense

Do not give out personal details or email addresses unless you know the site is trustworthy. When supplying sensitive details, such as bank account numbers, always ensure that the site is using valid encryption (typically SSL) and that the certificate is valid for the domain. (In Interent Explorer and Firefox you can click on the Padlock icon for details). Use an online alias whenever it is appropriate to avoid disclosing your real name.

The most effective method of keeping your details safe is not to supply them.

9. Don't surf at work

Many companies will monitor your Internet usage and it report to your superiors, so go careful. You may not want your browsing habits showing up on your monthly usage report!

10. Spam Harvesting

Always opt out of sharing your information with third parties. This will minimize the number of people storing your address. Whatever your do DO NOT reply to spam. You will just confirm your address for them and make you more of a target, this goes for links disguised as a "remove from email list" or "unsubscribe". The only exception for this rule is websites or companies that you trust.

My website and its content are free to use without the clutter of adverts, tracking cookies, marketing messages or anything else like that. If you enjoyed reading this article, or it helped you in some way, all I ask in return is you leave a comment below or share this page with your friends. Thank you.

About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

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